At Least 77,800 Avoid Jury Duty

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Tens of thousands of people have been no-shows for jury duty in the past three years and nothing is being done to hold them accountable, according to state court officials.

Court administrators say it is not known whether jury duty absences are deliberate, the result of somebody simply forgetting or cases where jury duty notices never make it to the person because they are not forwarded to a new address.

Cathy Graffam told Eyewitness News on Monday that she was attending jury duty, but noticed that several other people who were called to court never showed up.

"I received a notice in the mail and I showed up, but some other people didn't," she said. "It's not fair to the other jurors because they all have obligations that they have to meet -- they have jobs, they have families, lives. You're taking the time to be here, other people should too."

In Connecticut, jurors who fail to appear for court face a $121 fine and if the 77,878 delinquent jurors had paid a fine over the past three years, the state would have had a $9.4 million windfall.

However, the state recouped "exactly zero" from no-show jurors, according to the Judicial Branch.

As to why Connecticut has not enforced fines against delinquent jurors, it is a matter of authority and certain priorities.

Criminal defense attorney Gerald Klein said those who don't show up for jury duty should have their driver's licenses suspended.

"The type of person who wouldn't show up for jury duty, who would have the guts to not show up is not the type of person that either the state's attorney or the defense would even want on the jury," said Klein.

"That would be a question for the Chief State's Attorney's Office," said Deborah Fuller, director of external affairs for the Judicial Branch. "It might not be a priority over there."

Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane agrees that the office has not enforced the law against delinquent jurors.

"There have been other crimes that have taken precedence, such as the three strikes laws and mandatory sentences, Jessica's Law and issues involving crime against children," Kane said. "But delinquent jurors are certainly an issue worth pursuing."

Kane says there was discussion among state's attorneys several years ago about enforcing the law, but two obstacles remain.

One is whether prosecutors could prove all the elements of the law, most notably whether the would-be jurors had received their jury-duty notice.

The other was what might happen if they hauled them into court, fined them and then forced them to serve on a case.

"We could envision situations where we knew people were only sitting on juries because they thought they'd be prosecuted if they didn't," Kane says. "You can imagine a situation where jurors look at prosecutors thinking, 'I am only here because if I'm not I am in big trouble.'"



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